October 5, 2012

Collaborative Project: Barrio Buena Vista, El Paso

Amelia Zaraftis

     On October 1st, we met at the Mattox Building in Albuquerque to pack the van for Trip #2.  Evidently, the daily 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM routine of Land Arts was sufficiently imprinted on all participants during Trip #1, as we were packed and ready to go by 7:50 AM.  Bound for the West Texas town of El Paso, it was great to be together again as a group, catching up on the events of the past two weeks in Albuquerque, including the ISEA Conference and the Land Arts Cook Out.

     After a refreshingly short drive from Albuquerque to El Paso, we pulled into the Barrio Buena Vista neighborhood, passing the bus shelter built by Land Arts in 2011, and were delighted to see its shade being appreciated by a member of the community.

     We were welcomed by our host, Roberto Salas, Director of the Centro Artistico y Cultural - Buena Vista (CAC), and gathered to discuss the collaborative project our group would work on over the next four days; a project related to the Buena Vista Community's long established connection to a spring-fed wetland known as the Cement Lake.  Three groups were formed to work on different aspects of the project, with regular meetings to share progress and make changes according to information shared.  One overarching goal of the week's activities was to contribute to the development of an Environmental Protection Agency grant application to fund a Community Environmental Education project for the Buena Vista community.

     Throughout the week we were blessed with the company and assistance of Armando Carlos, President of the Buena Vista Neighborhood Association.

Armando Carlos and Amelia Zaraftis
Chrissie Orr

     Guest artist, Chrissie Orr, joined the Land Arts 2012 program for the El Paso component, leading a group of students who interviewed Buena Vista community members about their connections to the nearby Cement Lake wetland.

     The group of which I was a part of met with El Paso City representatives to discuss the collaborative project and seek partnerships for the grant application.  On Wednesday afternoon, we went to City Hall and met with Socorro Diamondstein, Cultural Funding Coordinator of the Museums and Cultural Affairs Department, and Courtney Niland, District #8 Council Representative.

Marne Elmore & Roberto Salas during the meeting at City Hall

Courtney Niland & Socorro Diamondstein

     Following our meeting at the City Hall, two representatives of the Cemex company who currently manage the Cement Lake Preserve, met with us at the Rio Grande Studio.

Arturo Pastrana (Cemex), Andy Zarabia (Buena Vista), & Carlos Aguilar III (Cemex)

     Wednesday evening saw the group break with home-cooked tradition and head for a meal at the famous Rosa's Cantina.  We were treated to the sounds of a Conjunto Norteno band, which came in off the street and played for an hour or so, inspiring dancing amongst the group.

Table's-eye-view of the group dinner at Rosa's Cantina

     Our group spent most of Thursday drafting letters and emails to potential partnership organizations and community members in order to be ready for distribution on Friday.

Bill Gilbert, Roberto Salas, Marne Elmore, and KB Jones

      On Friday morning, Arturo Pastrana from Cemex organized a site visit to the Cement Lake for our group.  We were required to wear hard hats and high visibility vests, as the lake is currently considered to be part of the mine site, and thus requires particular safety precautions.

Arturo Pastrana, Marne Elmore, Bill Gilbert, and Roberto Salas

     During the week, work was progressing on asbestos removal at the Centro Artistico y Cultural Buena Vista.  On our final afternoon in Buena Vista, the group took a walk to view the space.  Artwork and material related to the social practice we have engaged in this week in Buena Vista will be exhibited in the Centro at the start of 2013.

Centro Artistico y Cultural Buena Vista

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